Things for teams to try: Improving Free to be yourself

Create the freedom to be yourselves and you'll work happier and protect yourselves against mental exhaustion. Here's some ways you can build a team where you celebrate each other as individuals alongside the exchanges that will make your collective "thing" bigger and better than it's individual parts!

8 Free to be yourself - team

1. Connect to the core of you

Happiness in life and work is is partially about the positive connection we have with ourselves.

  • What do I stand for?
  • What are my hopes and fears?
  • How do I feel appreciated?
  • When do I do my best work?
  • Have I retained my own sense of self amid the constant background of needs, advice and received wisdom?

Work is a place we can find ourselves, but it's also a place where we can lose all sense of our own voice, our own contribution to the wider conversation.

Meditation, yoga, bike rides, quiet walks in the countryside, days where the to-do list doesn't get a look in, sabbaticals... these are all ways to find the stillness and quietness we need to pursue, come to know and then sustain a connection to the person we find on the inside.

2. Declare an end to your work day

Rituals that allow us to turn away from work and turn into other aspects of our lives are important. Make a ceremony out of declaring an end to your work day, so you can step gracefully into the rest of your life. Your rituals should be personal to you, but here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Turn off your work phone
  • Use a journey to transition from work to home
  • Say good evening to the team on email or slack
  • Do some exercise
  • Hug your loved ones
  • Make a nice meal

It matters less whether you've finished what you set out to achieve at the beginning of the work day; it matters more that you mark the end of the work day in your mind so it can make space to reconnect and restore. This is all the more important when we finish the work day frustrated or stressed.

3. Are you playing yourself or being yourself?

We can wear many hats at work - friend, supervisor, client adviser, leader, follower, instigator, finisher. Sometimes we feel we are "playing" ourselves - like when we do something new for the first time, or meet a new colleagues or clients. And sometimes we are ourselves - when we're working on a pet project or we're with our work friends.

It's likely that nobody on the outside of us will notice the difference, even though on the inside playing ourselves can feel a totally different experience to being ourselves. It's likely to be accompanied with more anxierty and potentially adrenaline and excitement - high arousal emotions. When we are just being ourselves, we feel less conscious about how we interact with the world, and this takes less mental energy to manage.

Sometimes we can feel a bit stagnant. We still feel ourselves but we're less happy about where our selves are at! When you notice this happening, try playing yourself to take on new challenges so you can grow and become a new version of yourself that you feel exicted about.

4. Align personal and team goals

The highest performing teams sustain the individual as well as the collective. They support people to do well and do well together. Yes, we all should expect to muck in to help the team perform, but it's easier to find our motivation to do this over the long term if we can see how our efforts in the team fulfil some of our personal goals.

It's great to emphasize team goals, but only to a point. It's a core psychological need that we feel self-directed about our work. And this means knowing each other as a group and knowing each other as individuals within the group. We navigate our attunement with the team and our needs to retain a sense of agency, responsibility and individuality.

It's good practice to use 1:1s to check in with your personal goals and discuss how they align with the goals of the team. It's unlikely there is perfect alignment, and that's ok. It's better to have the insight, so you can be intentional about opportunities to create allignment, than to slowly slip into dispirited engagement.

5. Identify and share your work pattern.

We are better able to focus when we work in short bursts and take regular breaks. The amount of time we can maintain concentration is likely different for everyone and different for every task.

Julia Gifford suggests 52 minutes of work followed by a 17 minute break, while James Levine suggests 15 minute bursts of activity.

Appreciate that you and your colleagues will all have different break patterns, but encourage each other to find your rhythm - and watch your creativity and productivity grow!"

6. Use Tony Hsieh's rules

Tony Hsieh championed Free to be Yourself at the tremendously successful shoe company Zappos. Tony led the entire organization from a position of creating positivity and happiness. He knew that forcing people to conform would have been a miserable experience for everyone. So, he paved the way for his employees to be true to their authentic selves. He believed that when people were themselves, they would be able to form emotional connections with customers and each other.

Tony had two rules for customer service representatives to live by:

  1. Be Yourself
  2. Use your judgement